No Regretsby devra
"You're welcome." Charlie sat across from Don, examining his own bottle of beer as if he had no idea how it had gotten into his hands. Charlie never drank. Don actually didn't know if Charlie had ever even had a drink. His brother never liked relinquishing control or actually maybe he was afraid *of* letting someone else be in the driver's seat; either way, the shock of seeing him holding a beer was in and of itself, a signal that Charlie was thinking way too much.
Keeping one eye on Charlie, Don drank deeply, the cold brew washing away the dryness the hour in the batting cage left behind. He really needed to get going. Go home. Shower. Read. Sleep. But there was something on Charlie's mind and whatever it was had been bothering him enough that Charlie had been uncharacteristically quiet and pensive in the car ride back.
He really had just wanted to drop Charlie off and leave, but there was no missing the hesitation when he'd gotten out of the car or the furtive glances over his shoulder as he had slowly meandered up the walk.
Charlie was able to speak volumes without uttering a word, which was why Don was sitting with him. Now. Around the kitchen table. Drinking his beer while Charlie looked absolutely uncomfortable, his fingers gripping the neck of his bottle so hard his knuckles were turning white. Yup, definitely something was on his baby brother's mind.
Don glanced at his watch. "So, Charlie, when's dad due back?"
Charlie checked his own watch, then shrugged. "Movie was over at 830, said he and Joe were going out for dinner after… I'm figuring, about another hour."
"Oh." Don took another sip. "How about you? Hungry? Want to order pizza?"
Charlie shook his head. "There's fresh cold cuts."
"Better idea." He followed Charlie into the kitchen and side by side they constructed their sandwiches, passing and exchanging lettuce, sliced tomatoes, mustard. Charlie tucked a bag of chips under his arm, and Don grabbed the jar of pickles from the top shelf in the fridge, slamming it shut with his hip.
* * *
Don ate. Charlie picked.
"Are you ever sorry?" Charlie asked as he nervously split his tomato in half.
Strange question, and thankfully Charlie inquired while Don had a mouthful of sandwich, giving him time to formulate an answer. "I'm sorry that the wrong man spent a year in jail. Wrongly accused. Yeah, you could say I'm sorry."
Charlie's face screwed up in confusion. "Huh?"
Don put down the pickle and mirrored Charlie's expression because this felt like the beginning of the Abbott and Costello 'Whose on First' routine. "What do you mean 'huh', I answered your question, didn't I?"
"No. I mean yes. Yes, you did." Charlie pushed away his plate and sat back in his chair. "But I meant were you ever sorry about..." he carded his fingers through his hair, then allowed his hands to flop back onto his lap."Roads not taken. Choices you’ve made."
Don began to peel the label off his beer bottle, a habit his father always hated, something about finding those little pieces all over the table and the living room, but it was a nervous habit of Don's that Terry always had a field day with. He would eventually move onto the paper napkin when there wasn't any label left for twitching fingers. "Charlie, do me a favor. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Walk the straight line, okay buddy, and talk to me."
"Are you sorry you didn't continue in baseball?"
Don's snort of laughter was short lived when he caught the expression on Charlie's face. "You're not kidding, are you?"
Charlie shook his head. "I saw your face when you connected with the ball tonight."
"It felt good." He moved onto the napkin, shredding it into all sorts of tiny innocuous shapes.
Charlie cocked his head, studied Don and the pile of growing paper scraps. He had faced all sorts of criminals and low life, the scum of the Earth, but no one, no one, managed to get under his skin or frighten him as much as Charlie. "Good enough to—"
"Nope. Didn't feel that good," Don admitted with a slight shake of his head. "It *never* felt that good. Ever."
"There are no buts, Charlie. No regrets. Honest."
"I just wanted to make sure."
"Because." Charlie ducked his head, embarrassed.
"Because why," Don prodded.
"I'm happy. I love what I do. I just wanted to make sure—"
"I'm sure. Very sure." How should one say they loved being an FBI agent? There was too much death to say he *loved* his job. But he loved the excitement. The high he got from playing the good guy who sometimes caught the bad guy. How did one explain that without sounding like a kid who hadn't outgrown cops and robbers? Don hid his own embarrassment behind a drink of beer. "The people I work with—"
"The best," Charlie readily agreed.
"The absolute best."
"But if you had to do it all over again—"
"I'd still make the same choices. Walk the same paths. Playing baseball was fun. I took it as far as it would go. As far as I could go. I knew my shortcomings well enough to leave the sport before I hated it or hated myself."
"I love my job." He reached forward, grabbed the beer bottle and palmed it between his hands. Don moved closer to the edge of the seat, anticipating his brother's first taste.
"I know you do, Charlie."
"I just wanted to make sure that you didn't give up a dream—"
"I didn't, honest."
"Okay." Charlie scooted forward in his chair and pulled his plate closer, putting his beer back onto the table. "I just wanted to make sure."
"You worry more than Dad."
"Nice. I'm a caring, concerned brother, and you decide to insult me?" Charlie took a bite of his sandwich, challenging Don with a raise of his eyebrows.
Don pushed himself away from the table, disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a bottle of water, exchanging it for the beer bottle in front of Charlie's plate.
Charlie laughed. "Now who's worrying more than Dad?"
"Hey," Don protested, taking his seat, placing the second beer next to his first.
"You're not drinking that if you're driving home."
"No, dad." Don stuck a chip in his mouth, smiling at Charlie while he chewed.
"No, what? Not going home or not drinking the beer?"
Suddenly going home didn't seem quite so appealing. It was okay, like playing baseball on the FBI team would be okay. Staying here seemed like a better idea. "Staying here *and* not drinking the beer."
"Staying here?" Charlie questioned.
"Is there a problem?"
"No. You just need to—"
"Shower? Well yeah, you do, but I was thinking more of that." He pointed to the pile of shredded bits of paper that had once been a beer bottle label by Don's plate and grimaced. "Dad *hates* when you do that."
Don pushed them into his cupped hand, stood and was just about to go into the kitchen to dump them into the garbage when he sneezed. He and Charlie watched them flutter to the ground like dust particles.
"Oops." Don bent, crawling under the table, trying to pick up all the pieces.
Charlie's head appeared under the dinning room table. "Car door," he hissed. "Must be dad."
Don raised his head, banging it on the underside of the table, the shock forcing him to drop the papers he had managed to retrieve. "Ow. I thought you said—"
"Must have been a change of plans. Let me help," Charlie ordered, picking up the scraps closest to him.
"Okay." As they frantically picked up the evidence of Don's nervous habit, he blurted out. "I love my job. I know at times…"
Charlie nodded. "I've seen evidence. I know it's hard."
"Yes, but I wouldn't change it for anything."
"Playing in the major league, making tons of money, having the girls—"
"Don't push it, okay?"
They froze as they front door opened. Closed. Then a pair of shoes came into view under the table. "Do I dare ask what you boys are doing under the table?"
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" They watched as the shoes moved into the kitchen. "I didn't get dinner, so I'm going to make myself a sandwich and I'd like to eat it with my sons sitting at the table and not under it. So Donnie, leave your mess on the floor; you can clean it up after we eat."
Charlie started to laugh and Don could feel the laughter beginning to bubble up until Charlie stopped, then looked at Don. "I'm glad you're happy."
"Me too," he admitted. "You know the team starts practicing soon. By any chance do you think you would be—"
"Not going to be the FBI team's mascot."
"Mascot? I was thinking statistician. Mascot?"
"I just thought…"
"Stop thinking, okay. First practice is a week from this Monday night. Clear your schedule."
"You know maybe I could help with everyone's—"
"Statistics. Let's stick to the job we love."
"I hear ya, Donnie."
And Don was sure that Charlie did. It had taken a while for them to get here, and sometimes, he had to begrudgingly admit, they did fall back into old habits. It was funny, odd actually, having an epiphany under the dining room table, but here was as good a place as any to realize that the job of being Charlie's brother, was something that Don wouldn't change for all the accolades in the world, and though there were times he wasn't great at it, he always loved it.
Author's Comments: Thank you for jo for always being there no matter what fandom I wander off to and to Marcia for the look see.
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